Friday, May 07, 2010

Disgraceful

Even if only half of the stories (eg) are half true, the widespread failures of the electoral system in the UK are a complete disgrace. It sounds more like some tinpot dictatorship in Africa than a modern "developed" nation.

(FWIW, I gave up trying to maintain my registration on the electoral roll some time ago, it hardly seems fair to vote as a non-taxpaying expat. Besides, the postal system is so broken that I'd been unable to vote the last few times even when registered and even when living in the UK, due to travelling abroad at the wrong time.)

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Early reports are saying that much of the problems were caused by large numbers of people turning up without their polling cards thus causing delays. Worse, certain polling stations apparently ran out of voting forms(!) Pathetic.

It seems that the Torys will win, though the possibility of a hung parliament remains. Looks like I'll be looking for a new job in a few months (as a government scientist I'm particularly vulnerable to their promised public sector cuts).

On the bright side - Lembit Opik is no longer an MP.

Chris S. (dissapointed that the Lib Dems seem to have failed to live up to their hype).

Anonymous said...

James, isn't socialism wonderful. Imagine how much better it will be once we redistribute all the wealth. Welcome to your future.

James Annan said...

Well despite the economic (and other) woes over here I'm not sorry to be sitting here in Japan for the time being.

One thing I really don't understand is how people can tolerate claims that first-past-the-post system of "decisive government" which concentrates power and disenfranchises so many has been good for Britain over the last few decades. Lurching from what is effectively a right-wing dictatorship to an ultra-right-wing dictatorship and back every few years hardly seems to have been a striking success within my life time.

Magnus Westerstrand said...

Could the libs remake the voting system?

yea-mon said...

Well, there was one bright ray of light from Northern Ireland - the hardline leader of the DUP lost his seat to the liberal Alliance Party.

James Annan said...

They may (and certainly will want to) make a referendum on electoral reform a condition of participation in a coalition (most likely with Labour). That might actually be worth re-registering for...

However it is questionable whether Lab/Lib coalition can rule anyway, as they won't have a majority of seats (note they do have a clear majority of the vote though).

AV would be an obvious improvement to the current system, and is already used in lots of elections including within the parties themselves!

P. Lewis said...

A large part of the problem appears to centre around there being only one register in the polling stations to check voters off against, so when you get a rush it becomes difficult to get high throughput of voters.

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Regarding "Chris S. (dissapointed that the Lib Dems seem to have failed to live up to their hype)."

A major disadvantage of the UK system of first past the post, given the way the votes split between three main parties, is that while the LD vote actually increased nationally by about 1% they have actually lost 5 seats (@ the mo.) in parliament.

This system leads to the Tories nationally getting 36% of the vote and currently having ~290 seats, Labour having 29% of the vote and ~250 seats and the LDs having ~23% of the vote and 52 seats. Whereas based on proportion of the vote you could expect the Tories to have 221 seats, Labour to have 178 seats and the LDs to have 141 seats.

Yet another disadvantage is that the Tories are a minority party in Wales (8/40 seats) and in Scotland (1/58 seats). The Tories effectively, therefore, have no mandate to force "English policy" on those countries from Westminster (well, that's what this "ex-pat" would be saying). However, proportionally, they should have representation of 26% (10 seats) in Wales and 17% (9 seats) in Scotland.

Our system has been in need of an overhaul since the SDP broke away from Labour and there was a resurgence in the Liberal vote, but it's not been in the narrow party interests of Labour or Tories to upset the status quo.

crf said...

" But he (Cameron) did not pledge a referendum on changing the voting system - a key concern of the Lib Dems - instead offering an "all party committee of inquiry on political and electoral reform"."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/election_2010/8667938.stm

So, Cameron is offering a libdem place in government, if the party promises to take cyanide.

guthrie said...

You're supposed to be able to vote without your polling card, although I usually take it along. They then find my name on a register and put a line through it. If they had one register per place then they would always have problems, whether or not anyone had their polling card with them.

All the elections I recall seeing had the roll split up into smaller groupings eg a score of streets, say 3 or 400 houses worth, for ease of use, and I've never had to queue. So it looks like some people are complete morons.

Tony Sidaway said...

There will be an official investigation but provisionally I'm confident that the problem was caused by higher turnout than anticipated in 'sere.some wards and on contingency plans to enable queues of voters to vote if they're still waiting at closing time. Some enterprising presiding officers herded the voters into the polling station and locked the doors at 2200 to enable them all to vote, but that is bending the current rules, which ought to be updated to make that standard procedure. Most stuck with the letter of the law and locked the doors in the faces of queuing voters, who were understandably miffed at being disenfranchised.

My wife was a poll clerk in our local ward in a London borough. her second tour of duty and her first at a general election, and she said it was reasonably busy but not bad. They turned away one person who arrived after 2200. Not nice but you do have to draw the line somewhere.

You're supposed to be able to vote without the card, but it does make the process a bit quicker.

jules said...

Since "they" keep saying that the Libdems are more lefty than Labour, so why don't the politicians just bury the hatchet and form a a Con-Lab coalition. Then they'd have a majority!

guthrie said...

Ahhh, but the point is that if they did that labour would lose votes, and what the leaders are most interested in is their personal power structure, which depends upon them being seen as better than the tories, which they are, a bit. Better at helping some of the worst off, what with minimum wage and some benefits improvements. Never enough though.
However in my opinion it seems likely that their craven acceptance of neoliberalism and re-does all the damage the above mentioned changes hlp fix.

JMurphy said...

A bit OT, but I must defend the UK Postal service as doing a very good job despite managerial incompetence and governmental desires to privatise. How did it prevent you voting previously, though ?

James Annan said...

They don't send out the ballot papers until a week before the election: if you are sitting at home waiting for the postie and able to turn it round immediately, it may be possible for it to get back in time to count, but it only takes a small hiccup for a failure. Airmail generally takes 4-5 days *each way* UK-Japan, and I'm out at work during delivery times. I'm sure you can do the maths on that one!

Previously even when living in the UK, I've at least once been away at a conference over the period in question and without knowing which day the ballot will arrive I couldn't even sensibly tell them where to send it. I may have offered a colleague a proxy vote that time, I can't remember for sure.

It probably works ok most of the time for people who are actually in the UK but unable to attend in person, cos first class post generally manages next-day delivery, or 2 days at worst. It may also be ok for retired expats in Spain sitting at home all day. But for me it's been far more miss than hit, which is pretty pathetic considering the constitutional principles.

James Annan said...

Coincidentally I just bumped into an exile who did apply for a postal vote - he got his ballot paper on Monday...